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Action Project Issue, April 2018
Homegrown The future of Wisconsin farming
CAMERON LANE-FLEHINGER/THE DAILY CARDINAL
“...the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”
Action Project Issue, April 2018
Focusing on Wisconsin’s farming community By Madeline Heim and Andrew Bahl MANAGEMENT TEAM
If there’s one thing Wisconsin is known for, it is agriculture. From the state’s license plates proclaiming Wisconsin as “America’s Dairyland” to the foam cheeseheads dotting Lambeau Field to the rolling cornfields of Green, Portage and Polk Counties, growing things is just what many Wisconsinites do.
But the industry is changing and farming today is vastly different than what the practice resembled 30 years ago. And the future of the industry is in doubt, affecting the food students eat in the dining halls, at Madison’s many farm-to-table restaurants and, for many young people, the industry they will graduate and work in. The Daily Cardinal has elected to dedicate its second, themed Action Project issue to this vital subject,
recognizing that agriculture is often missing from the stories we tell in our paper yet is crucial to both powering our lives and the fåuture of this university. We wanted to look at the many unseen ways in which agriculture touches all of our lives, from the beer and dairy that are staples of this state’s economy to farm-bred athletes who compete on the playing fields at UW to the effects the industry has on the
future of the environment. Once again, we have decided to create a website dedicated to these stories, which are far too numerous to fit in a newspaper. Go to homegrowndc.com to read more about agriculture on campus, burgeoning urban agriculture in the city of Madison and the statewide evolution of farming. The responsibility we have to reconnect with our land and Wisconsin’s rich agricultural history
reaches far beyond choosing local or organic food to eat. We ask that in engaging with this project, the campus community will delve deeper into the ways that farming has grown and the ways it has endured, despite the momentous challenges of the job. We hope the next time you bite into a burger or drive past a dairy barn, you think about the processes behind it and the stories of the people who make that food possible.
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The Evjue Foundation, Inc. (the charitable arm of The Capital Times)
for providing the funds to make the Action Project possible.
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Action Project Issue, April 2018 3
In Madison, chefs unite in use of local agriculture
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More than 50 chefs are a part of the MACN to educate other chefs and promote the culinary profile of the city. By Max Bayer CITY NEWS EDITOR
At the drop of a hat, Dan Bonanno, Madison Magazine’s 2017 Chef of the Year, listed some of the farms he works with directly. His foie gras? Bonanno insists Au Bon Canard, which means “good duck” in French, has some of the best in the country. What about pork? Fischer Family Farms is his go-to. Aside from these two examples which, granted, are located in Minnesota, Bonanno says what differentiates Madison’s culinary scene from others is simple: Madison has better products. “Having this relationship with our farmers, saying, ‘Hey can you grow not just a pepper but this one type of pepper for me,’ that’s the difference,” he said. “That’s what’s amazing about what we do here.” The six-year restaurateur of Madison grew up in Kenosha
and, after working in Chicago, returned to his home state because he knew of Madison’s capabilities as a culinary hub. Bonanno is now the owner and head chef at Pig in a Fur Coat on Williamson Street. For him and his peers, direct access to local farmers and local agriculture is an incredible asset. But for some chefs, specifically those new in town, learning about those resources can be difficult. Bonanno believes it’s important they know where to look. Aiding in that mission is the Madison Area Chef Network, a coalition of more than 50 Madison-area chefs that was the brainchild of Tori Miller, owner of four local restaurants, including L’Etoile and Graze. The organization works to not only organize weeklong fundraisers throughout the year, but to create a community for the chefs. “There’s obviously some lead-
of working with University Housing this summer
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ers in the community from a culinary standpoint who have achieved a large level of success and want to share that success with others to raise the profile of Madison,” said Bryan Weinstein, executive director of MACN. Rooted in the network’s mission is a community built on collaboration, not competition, and it serves to improve the work of all the chefs and the producers they work with. “If people are speaking to one another about where they’re sourcing protein or where they’re sourcing vegetables, there is just a knowledge that can be shared,” Weinstein said. He added that if you aren’t buying from local farmers at this point, you’re “way behind the curve.” Bonanno says the difference is in the extra time the farmers he works with dedicate to their products. “They’re the opposite of commercial boxed products,” he
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said. “Farmers around here, are like, ‘Hey, take a couple extra weeks, months, make a really great product.’” Additionally, many farmers are willing to take just as many risks and creative leaps as the chefs are. “How I treat food here, how I care about food and experience it in the restaurant, farmers are now doing the same thing,” Bonanno said. “They’re doing the opposite of what people have been doing the last 40 years.” Anna Thomas Bates, co-owner of Landmark Creamery in Peoli, says she is always supportive of and willing to collaborate with chefs to turn ideas into dishes. “Sometimes we’ll even work together that way; they’ll already have something they’re looking for that they’re trying to fit into a dish that they’re conceiving of,” Bates said. For Bonnano, that often comes in the form of unique produce. Since he is willing to pay top dollar, he can work with farmers to plant seeds they may otherwise avoid. “The farmers, before I came, never really did a lot of Italian vegetables,” he said, adding that Miller works with farmers to grow more Asian-inspired produce. “They’re excited, it’s something new,” he said. “Maybe the weather doesn’t help it, but at least I try and make it worth their while to grow it.” Bert Paris was a dairy farmer for more than 10 years and says that while he didn’t maintain as close of a relationship with chefs, some of his colleagues that are still in the business do. “I think other people are having more success,” he said. “Maybe their ability to make a product is a little easier.” For example, it’s difficult for dairy farmers that have to work through an intermediary like Landmark Creamery to actually be the ones in communication with chefs while produce farmers are able to have more direct contact. An uneasy reality that also affects small dairy farms is the monopolization of medium- and large-sized farms. The number of dairy herds in the state has fallen 20 percent over the last five years, even though milk production has increased. For farmers with maybe one or two hundred cows, it’s hard to compete in that market.
“The small, family dairy farms are in crisis,” said Bates. “The price is a problem, how much milk is being produced is a problem and it’s really turning into a big struggle for the smaller, family dairy farms.” Bonanno said the saturation of ingredients – in this case, milk – hinders the opportunity for chefs to be creative. “Some of us want a little more fatty or richer milk, sweeter milk, because it makes a better product,” he said. But unsurprisingly, the higher the quality, the higher the cost. Because of that, Bonanno understands that for other restaurants, investing in specific ingredients from smaller farms simply may not be a profitable business decision. “I don’t blame people for not doing local, or doing what I do, because it’s a different situation,” he said. “Our goal too is to educate other chefs and show them why we do this.” Weinstein says the use of locally-sourced ingredients speaks more to Madison’s culture as a whole rather than just the chef network. “Almost everyone in this city, who’s trying to do food at a somewhat higher level is taking advantage of our farms,” he said. “The farm-to-table [term] dates back decades in Madison.” With such a concentrated effort by Madison chefs to take advantage of the area farmers, the community grows larger and more loyal. Bates remembered a distinct moment last summer when Tami Lax, founder and head chef at Harvest and The Old Fashioned, donated all the proceeds from Landmark’s cheese to a Kickstarter the creamery had started. “If they didn’t know us as well as they did, and if the community wasn’t as small as it was, that probably doesn’t happen in every place,” she said. As a result, the ecosystem sustained by the producers and the chefs results in a valuable end product for all involved, including restaurant patrons. “What the farmers produce is important, and then how we treat it is important and then to see what the chefs do with [the food] is always really inspiring but it’s all linked together and that’s what all ends up on the plate in front of the diner,” Bates said.
CAMERON LANE-FLEHINGER/THE DAILY CARDINAL
According to some of Madison’s best chefs, including Chef Dan Bonanno of Au Bon Canard, working with high quality, local agriculture is essential.
4 • Action Project Issue, April 2018
SENIOR STAFF WRITER
In January, Matt Kronschnabel, who graduated from UW-Madison in 2016, and three friends signed the deed to a four-acre organic farm in Viroqua, Wis. — in a region that saw the nation’s highest rate of farm bankruptcies last year, according to federal court data. Kronschnabel’s farm, Circadian Organics, is run according to a community-supported agriculture model, or a CSA — meaning it will be funded in part by community investors. Their dividend? Kronschnabel’s organic and locally grown vegetables. “I want to make a difference in my community, and trying to achieve a sustainable smallscale, organic farm is the best way for me to make that positive impact,” he said. Kronschnabel and several other recent UW-Madison graduates are entering agriculture at a time when saturated markets and low commodity values sector-wide are shuttering family farms and driving young farmers away. Census data shows that the average age of farmers in the state has trended upward over the last decade, and that the number of people employed in the industry as a whole is shrinking. Large-scale farms are growing in size but are relying on less labor, said Bruce Jones, UW-Madison professor of agriculture and applied economics. Increasingly, this has been achieved through farm consolidation and mechanization, which allows fewer farmers to operate more farmland. “Their opportunity to be profitable is to become a low-cost producer, and to do that they exploit the capital they have to produce as much as they can, as cheaply as possible,” he said. In contrast, Jones said farms operated on a CSA model tend to be much smaller in scale, rely on income besides crops and require a lot of labor. Farmers work closely with community investors and pay their local shareholders in produce. Their farms average anywhere between 10 and 30 acres. Kronschnabel found that starting a CSA helped him establish his farm on a scale that was economically sustainable. But CSAs, which have traditionally occupied a niche market, are not exempt from the financial troubles that have plagued larger farms for the last three years. Demand for organic
produce has driven up premiums on organically certified farmland, making it harder and more costly for young farmers to enter the market. “The biggest challenge is acquiring affordable, organically certified land, and it’s harder still to find that near your market,” Kronschnabel said. “Unless you’re coming in with a lot of money, that acquisition will put you in the negative.” For traditional Wisconsin farmers, borrowing is a way of life. In a good season, the initial investment required to raise animals or plant crops will pay off. But in a bad season, farmers can face bankruptcy and even foreclosure. Millennials like Kronschnabel are less likely than any other generation to take financial risks, with the exception of loans, according to a 2017 survey by the National Association of Realtors. “Borrowing money as a farmer is an enormous gamble,” Kronschnabel said. “You’re essentially betting against nature.” When senior Charlie Koczela and 11 of his friends took a year off of school to start Nomad Farm in 2016, they relied on income from other jobs, crowdsourcing outlets like GoFundMe and CSA investments for funding. Community investment helped Kronschnabel and Koczela divide both the costs and rewards of starting their farms between all of the involved operators and shareholders. “Being cooperatively run means you don’t take on all of that risk on your own. Instead you’re building a community around it,” Kronschnabel said. “Risk and reward can be distributed equally and equitably.” He contrasts the CSA model with bank or U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, which many in his parents’ generation turned to for loans. Those loans are typically issued to individual operators and backed against their farms. If farmers default, they can lose their land. Kronschnabel said he hopes that operating on a small scale means that he can avoid risky loans. Entering a USDA loan program would go against much of the political ideology that inspired Koczela and his friends to begin farming in the first place. For Koczela, growing his own food is a way to remove himself from an agricultural and political system he doesn’t believe in. He sees unsustainable market practices as drivers of environmental degradation.
Historical struggles deter new farmers
Young farmers opt to scale back for sustainability By Sydney Widell
By Sydney Widell SENIOR STAFF WRITER
PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT KRONSCHNABEL
Kronschnabel’s farm, Circadian Organics, is run according to a community-supported agriculture model, meaning it will be funded in part by community investors. “Among the community who turns to small farms to solve systemic problems, they see the USDA as part of that problem, and I don’t blame them,” Koczela said. “Farming loan campaigns in the past have caused intense environmental and economic damage.” Historically, farmers have tried to pay off loans by increasing their production, theoretically increasing their ability to make a profit. But when there is widespread economic downturn and many farmers expand their operations at once, overproduction only drives commodity prices lower and farmers spiral further into debt. Koczela said that when production accelerates on such a large scale, environmental problems are practically inevitable. He points to events ranging from The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression to carbon and nutrient pollution as problems driven by cycles of desperation and overproduction. For Kronschnabel, there are many reasons to avoid that type of debt, especially in the start-up phase of his CSA. “A large part of what we want to do is to stay low-debt. We don’t want our hands to be tied, financially, and we don’t want to take those risks,” he said. “But mostly, we don’t want to be farming just to pay off the debt.” Still, unless a prospective farmer can enter the market with money and capital in hand, Kronschnabel said people starting CSAs have a very hard time getting their feet off the ground. Kronschnabel said this financial barrier deters people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds from pursuing agriculture, and raises broader questions about access and inclusivity that apply to the entire organic movement. “It is very difficult to be a low-debt farmer, especially at first. We want to be farmers as soon as possible and to rely on our farming income as soon as possible,” Kronschnabel said. “Doing that without running into a ton of debt becomes a question of an economy of scale.” More land trusts and equitable, responsible subsidy programs would make farming more accessible for more
people, Kronschnabel said. “If there were more groups investing in land and keeping it in the hands of responsible stewards and farmers, it would keep it away from large, monocultural industries and encourage better, more inclusive management,” he said. “Additionally, a lot of farming subsidies only make it into the hands of big industries, where they can do more damage than good.” Koc zela and Kronschnabel said that farming on a sustainable scale, both economically and environmentally, was one of the reasons they were attracted to agriculture initially. “My wanting to farm came from a deep-seated hatred for institutional processes and things that are too big to fail,” Koczela said. “By farming, you feel like you’re really taking a part of the system for yourself. I think that idea is really attractive to young people who are politically and socially radical.”
From a young age, BobbiJo DeGolyer said she knew she didn’t want to be a farmer. DeGolyer was born on her family’s 320-acre, six-generation farm in Markesan, Wis., where her parents raise cattle, pigs and chickens. Now, at 33, she lives 15 miles away in Ripon with her two sons and works at the public library. “We struggled my entire life to make it work,” DeGolyer sad. “Even as a child I knew I didn’t have any desire to be a farmer or to marry into a farm.” Watching her parents grapple with relentless financial insecurity driven by low commodity prices, coupled with ever-increasing costs of input, swayed DeGolyer against following their path. DeGolyer’s story is similar to that of many children of Wisconsin farmers. U.S. Census data shows that the number of farmers in Wisconsin decreased by 10 percent between 2007 and 2012, and the number of farmers in DeGolyer’s generation or younger is shrinking as well. “The older I got, the more bitterness I had. You could make more money working at a gas station and that was really discouraging,” DeGolyer said. Kalton Bauman, D e G o l y e r ’s father, said an increasing technological presence in agriculture has driven up input costs, and profits return to technology companies, not farmers. At the same time, he said commodity prices have not
GRAPHIC BY MAX HOMSTAD
kept up with inflation, while other costs — like pesticides, fertilizers and equipment — have soared. “Inputs can be expensive and not be a burden as long as the price of outputs is staying ahead of them,” said Bruce Jones, UW-Madison professor of agriculture and applied economics. “But what farmers have consistently seen throughout time is that they’re always under a price-cost squeeze and their margin is constantly under pressure.” The retail price for a pound of sirloin averages $8.99, according to The National Farmers Union. According their data, only $2.01 will make its way back into the Baumans’ pockets. “Consumers don’t want their grocery bills to go up,” Bauman said. “Americans want cheap food.” By contrast, the cost of Bauman’s costs have risen continuously since he took over farming for his parents in the mid-1970s. Bauman said he remembers feed corn sold at $3.80 a bushel in the mid-1970s, when he first began farming, and that he could buy a bag of it for $40. In 2017, that same bushel averaged $3.50, but the price of Bauman’s feed corn is $230. For Bauman, who at one point kept 80 beef cattle and 300 pigs, the difference adds up quickly. “I like to farm,” Bauman said. “I just wish I could get paid for it. American food policy has killed American farmers. ” Bauman began farming around the same time Earl Butz, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Richard Nixon, declared that farmers needed to either “get big or get out.” Butz slashed remnants of New Deal farm subsidies meant to protect small farmers like Bauman from glutted markets, and he replaced
them with subsidised insurance policies that promoted land acquisition, farm consolidation and industrialisation. In 1970, the average American farm was 390 acres, a little larger than the Baumans’. By the end of the decade, that area had risen to 426 acres, according to the USDA. Jones said farmers turned to borrowing as a way to finance modernization and growth. By 1980, record production led to a crash in commodity values, and farmers across the country were stranded with a decade’s worth of debt — a crisis historians have compared to The Dust Bowl. Bauman said that was the first time in his memory farming felt like it had departed from “the good and normal.” “In the ‘70s, we had money in our savings account,” Bauman said. “We were ok.” But despite the early brush with financial trouble, Bauman didn’t stop farming. “We hung in there because we were hopeful things would get better,” he said. “It’s been said that farmers are optimists — good, bad or otherwise.” For the past three years, Jones said farmers across the midwest are once again struggling to profit in a saturated market, and many rely on second jobs to support their farms and their families. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts that, on average, over 80 percent of farming income will be from non-farming jobs. “We don’t want it to get to the point where we’re going into other businesses just to support the farm,” DeGolyer said. However, that is exactly what her family has done.
CAMERON LANE -FLEHINGER/THE DAILY CARDINAL
Young people are opting against going into farming given economic instability in the field.
During the summer, Bauman spends his weekends travelling around the state, selling his meats at farmers’ markets. Often, his day will begin at 3 a.m. and he won’t return home until 9 at night — all time he could have been farming. He and his son also started a catering company that uses products harvested from their farm. At 64, Bauman said he is working more hours than he was at age 40. But even the income from two side businesses wasn’t enough to keep the Bauman’s farm operational. To make up the difference, Bauman began selling off his herd and taking out more loans backed against the farm itself. Defaulting on them meant losing land. “It takes money to make money,” Bauman said. “But the thing we need is profit. You can’t borrow yourself out of debt, just like you can’t borrow yourself into profit.” Bauman said that loans are always a gamble, but that for him and many other farmers across the state, they continue to be one of few options. “It’s a balancing act,” Bauman said. “When I look up and down my road, I see more and more empty farms. As the cost of inputs increase, farmers either sell out or file for bankruptcy.” In 2017, Wisconsin saw the second highest rate of farm bankruptcies in the nation. Most of those were Chapter 12, which Jones explained entail loan restructuring, rather than farm liquidation. But he said it’s still an indication that the Wisconsin agricultural community is facing economic stress. The Baumans were among those who were foreclosed. “It was sobering and humbling,” Bauman said. “We knew we had to make serious changes.” So the Baumans hired an analyst, who told them that they cut a profit margin of $50 for every head of cattle they brought to market, and that the cost of raising pigs was more than the value of the pigs themselves. The analyst’s long-term suggestion? Stop farming. Ultimately, the Baumans were able to stave off foreclosure by selling half of their acreage to a neighbor. In the wake of the foreclosure, Bauman said that he and his son plan to shift more of their focus to their catering business. But the future of their farm remains uncertain. Farmers can’t simply turn in a two week’s notice when they decide they are ready to move on, Bauman points out. Despite all of these factors, Bauman said he might not be ready to give up yet. “As a farmer, my roots run deep. Farmers like to be able to pass their land on to their children,” Bauman said. “But when their children see their city cousins working five days a week instead of seven and still earning more money, I understand why they think ‘why do this?’”
Action Project Issue, April 2018
An independent student newspaper, serving the University of Wisconsin-Madison community since 1892 Volume 127, Issue 37
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UW agriculture schools begin talks of mergers, expansions
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GRAPHIC BY SAMANTHA NESOVANOVIC
By Samantha Nesovanovic STAFF WRITER
In a couple of years, students who apply to the agriculture college at UW-Madison may see fewer majors and departments, while students applying to other UW System schools could see new options available to them. UW-Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is updating how the college’s administration operates in an effort to make it more efficient under the CALS Organization Redesign Project, according to Kara Luedtke, the project’s manager. Luedtke said other universities are undergoing “significant change that has implications for higher education and academic science,” which is what prompted the project’s creation. “It is time to change our organizational and support structures to match the innovations occurring in our classrooms and laboratories and meet new demands,” she said. “Many things are certainly different today from when the college was formed in 1889.” A major component of the redesign project will involve merging some of its 17 departments that overlap in curriculum and subject areas. But as departments at UW-Madison face consolidation or elimination, UW-Platteville is looking to create new degrees and expand agriculture educational opportunities, even as the university faces its own restructuring process. Last fall, the UW System Board of Regents voted to merge two- and four-year colleges, and as a result, UW-Baraboo/Sauk County and UW-Richland will become branch campuses of UW-Platteville. Dean Dwayne Weber of UW-Platteville’s School of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture is viewing the merger as an opportunity to develop and grow the three schools’ agriculture education programs. Weber said he is excited at the prospect of utilizing the resources the three universities have and opening the availability of those resources to students from all three schools. “What we want to do is look at ways of how we can be stron-
ger together,” Weber said. At UW-Madison, Luedtke said CALS is hoping to find new strength through department mergers and collaboratives, which are structures that allow departments to share resources and work together while still retaining some independence. In March, the Redesign Committee provided departments in CALS with guidelines and recommendations to follow when considering which departments they could potentially merge or become collaboratives with. The committee said departments that lend themselves to consolidation have overlapping research areas and facilities or support services that different departments could share. Departments will be submitting potential consolidation plans throughout the spring semester, and they are due to the dean by May 15. Because of lower enrollment numbers, some of CALS’s majors are potentially facing the chopping block under the restructuring project as well. The CALS Redesign committee’s final recommendations state that majors and certificates that graduated fewer than 15 students on a yearly basis over the past four years should be eliminated. With that suggestion, majors that could be eliminated are entomology, poultry science and soil science. The low enrollment numbers in those majors could be due to a combination of factors, including decreased student interest in the majors, increased interest in similar majors and job availability, according to Luedtke. Though some majors may be eliminated or merged with others with more generalized curriculums, new options within majors could be created under the redesign, Luedtke said. One of UW-Platteville’s goals with their restructuring, in contrast to the CALS redesign, is to introduce more specialized associate’s degrees at UW-Baraboo/ Sauk County and UW-Richland. “Right now, [the two-year campuses’] associate degrees are excellent degrees but at the same time are very generalized,”
Weber said. “I think for us to be able to thrive at those two-year campuses, we need to be offering degrees that are relevant to the local regions and communities.” Jillian Diehl, a UW-Platteville sophomore, also advocates for introducing degrees that will cater to prospective students from the surrounding areas of UW-Platteville’s future branch campuses. “I can see [the merger] benefitting the students … because students who come from family farms can move back home to help on the farm but they can still get their degree,” she said. As both universities’ restructurings progress, student input will play an increasingly important role in decision making. “[UW-Platteville is] a relatively small campus — in our agriculture school we have fewer than 800 majors — so student involvement and student engagement is exceedingly important to what we do,” Weber said. The Student Advisory Board for the CALS dean is currently the main source of student input on the CALS redesign, though future information on the project will be shared with all students via newsletters. As CALS students’ awareness of the redesign project is relatively low, the board is also determining how to increase awareness and bring general student feedback and suggestions into the project’s conversation. Some students on the Student Advisory Board have voiced concerns about departments getting adequate funding to function and thrive, and they want to ensure all departments have the resources they need to provide for students’ educations, according to Jinal Patel, the chair of the Student Advisory Board. Patel doesn’t hold these same concerns, however. “I think this [project] will be really beneficial because the main goal of this university and school is to provide an excellent education to its students,” she said. “By focusing on the departments that teach the core subjects, CALS will be able to do just that.”
Another worry some of the board members have with the project are the class sizes for required courses within CALS majors, which could worsen with the consolidation of departments and majors. “I am personally concerned with how students will gain access to courses with already limited enrollment space in required courses such as introductory chemistry and popular elective courses such as physiology,” said Kris Carlson, another student serving on the Student Advisory Board. Despite this concern, Carlson believes the CALS administration will address students’ competition for spots in already-crowded lectures through the redesign. “Discussions at the Student Advisory Board meeting have made it clear that administration takes these concerns seriously and plans to implement solutions to alleviate enrollment concerns,” she said. While the restructuring taking place at both UW-Madison and UW-Platteville may create a level of uncertainty for some, others are excited. “I think some really innovative things can come out of this redesign,” Luedtke said. “I look forward to seeing the creativity of faculty and staff in designing new ways to support our teaching and research now and in the future.” Carlson also hopes the project will positively impact the diversity on campus and students’ academic opportunities. “I am excited about the growth to our student body and the kinds of opportunities that this growth will open up,” Carlson said. “I expect to see a diverse student body that will continue to foster a connected community in CALS through our shared academics, student organizations and community outreach.” The CALS Organizational Redesign Project is still in a conceptual stage — as are the ideas being bounced around at UW-Platteville — and there are currently no specific proposals that face review, Luedtke said. Discussions regarding more finalized plans, however, are expected to begin taking place during the summer.
Action Project Issue, April 2018 7
PHOTO COURTESY OF CAMERON LANE-FLEHINGER
The school has made improvements toward purchasing its dining hall and campus food products from local farmers. However, local food is not always of high quality.
UW-Madison gradually improving quantity of locally sourced food view Cardinal View editorials represent The Daily Cardinal’s organizational opinion. Each editorial is crafted independent of news coverage.
n a calendar year, UW Housing purchases nearly 40,000 pounds. of four ounces. hamburger patties. It brings in 17,300 pounds of plain chicken breasts — just one type of chicken it sells — and more than 63,000 lbs. of lettuce. Producing food in high volume is a constant challenge that Paul Sprunger, UW-Madison’s executive chef, and his team have to deal with. And finding local vendors who can keep up with the university’s supply and demand is another issue in and of itself. But, in recent years, UW-Madison is making incremental improvements to how much of its food comes from local sources — though it’s important to note that local food does not necessarily equate to better tasting food. The definition of local food is different depending on whom you might ask. Some schools in Wisconsin consider products that are merely manufactured in the state to be local, meaning that Coca-Cola, a global company with a production plant in Milwaukee, is actually a “local source.” Tom Bryan, a fourth-year PhD student at UW-Madison who studies food systems’ carbon footprint analytics, noted that private businesses have various definitions for local food as some use specific mile ranges to determine if a product is local. A local purchase for UW Housing is more specific, however, and is defined as one that has ingredients from Wisconsin, is processed in-state and is manufactured in-state. Such a definition translates into just over 12 percent of UW’s food purchases coming from in-state, according to Angie Erickson, the assistant director of purchasing at UW Housing. That number jumps
to 36 percent, however, if you consider products only manufactured in Wisconsin. The 12 percent figure has remained relatively consistent over that past five to 10 years, Erickson said. But in that time, UW’s definition of “local” has become more concise, removing suppliers like Bagels Forever, which manufactures its products in Madison but gets its ingredients from various places from its local categorization. In turn, Erickson noted that today, UW’s food is “more truly local” than it was previously. Consumers often think local foods will taste better. “The thought of the happy cow on the happy pasture flavors the steak,” Bryan cited as a common reason people enjoy local foods. But locality does not always equate to taste. While having prosperous local food systems can boost healthy food access and might lead to a better tasting product, in actuality, many of the more concrete benefits of locally sourcing food are economic. In 2008, President Barack Obama pledged to promote local food systems because he said they help farmers and ranchers “get full retail price for their food— which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the important work which they love.” In 2010, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack laid out a fiveyear strategic plan for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support regional food systems because “increased economic activity in food-related sectors of the economy helps communities build and maintain prosperity.” Strong local food systems also create jobs not only in food production, but in countless related businesses: equipment manufacturing, processing, cold storage facili-
ties, transportation and relations among others. All of UW Housing’s cheeses come from Wisconsin. And its dairy products come from UW Dairy, located on UW-Madison’s campus. Simple Soyman, a Milwaukee supplier, is its source for tofu and tempeh, and Klondike Cheese Company of Monroe, Wisconsin, is the university’s source for sour cream, feta cheese and yogurt. “The things that we can do, we are doing,” Erickson said. There are, however, inherent challenges with trying to serve more local food in university buildings. Sourcing large masses of proteins is difficult, Sprunger said. And suppliers need certain kinds of insurance and transportation technologies to become certified vendors. Safety and product consistency are two other crucial factors that inhibit the amount of local food served from increasing, as are seasonality issues. Local food also doesn’t necessarily lead to a decreased carbon footprint. Bryan’s research finds that for restaurants and grocery stores, the main carbon footprint impact is in production and not in transportation. Jennifer Meta Robinson and James Robert Farmar, in their book, Local Food Movements Matter, add that environmental benefits of local food can be overstated. For example, winter-lettuce grown in California that is shipped to New York might be more “environmental” than lettuce grown in a heated greenhouse on the east coast. “Sometimes smaller-scale growing can be less efficient than larger operations,” they wrote. Sprunger sees his team’s responsibility to source the best and safest products to UW’s students. Sometimes that means bringing in local products, other times it means finding other food sources. No matter their approach, however, they are devising new ways to put more local products on their shelves. He says that UW is planning to open a small hydroponic farm on
campus next fall to try and sustain Four Lakes Market’s salad greens for the upcoming school year. He would also like to see an internal vertical growing system on campus in the future, so that more of UW’s vegetables could be produced in-state — products like cherry tomatoes and broccoli are supplied from Janesville, though the 63,000 pounds of lettuce come from elsewhere in the U.S. Thus, UW is making incremental improvements to locally source its food, a continued move in a positive direction. Though one should always con-
sider that local is not the same thing as best — a reality that Sprunger made apparent when discussing UW-Madison’s struggle to find a Wisconsin hamburger to serve to the thousands of hungry students on campus. “We got one [local purveyor],” Sprunger said. “But it didn’t pass the taste test.” Cardinal View editorials represent The Daily Cardinal’s organizational opinion. Each editorial is crafted independent of news coverage. Please send any and all of your questions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Action Project Issue, April 2018
Rooted: Mentality forged on family farm inspires work ethic for Biadasz
SAMANTHA NESOVANOVIC/THE DAILY CARDINAL
Tyler Biadasz grew up on a farm in the small town of Amherst. There, he learned the importance of ambition watching his family’s work ethic. He credits much of his success on the gridiron to his childhood on the farm. By Jared Schwartz THE DAILY CARDINAL
From fields of corn to the hustle and bustle of the big city, Wisconsin sophomore center Tyler Biadasz has made the transition from Amherst, a rural town with a population of just 1,035, according the 2010 census, to Madison. But his hometown roots are integral part of him as both a person and football player. Just next door to his home in Amherst, Biadasz’s grandfather owns and operates a family-run farm — Biadasz’s dad, two uncles, aunt and cousins have all worked there at some point in their lives. The Biadasz farm has roughly 1,000 acres of crops and between 850 and 900 head of cattle. Although he didn’t live on the farm, Biadasz was there plenty — enough to know everything they did, why they did it and how they did it — and did his fair share of work, following his grandfather’s example. “My grandpa showed me how to milk cows, feed calves, stack hay bales and clean up the barn,” Biadasz said. “It’s always a mess but you develop good memories and good work ethic.” Biadasz never loved farming but always valued the time he got to spend with his family. With his family usually working 12-hour days, Biadasz didn’t always get an opportunity to spend a lot of time with his dad or his uncles. Being on the farm,
however, gave him a chance to share valuable experiences with them. “Spending time with my uncle [on the farm] — that was the most relationship I [got to] have when I was younger,” Biadasz said. “I was able to develop more of a relationship with them and learn how they do what they do.” Ask Biadasz about the farm and he’ll make sure you know how hard his family works. From having such a close look at his family’s daily schedule, Biadasz has gained a deep appreciation for the back-breaking work that his family endures on a daily basis. “It’s really cool how much they do for what they get out of it. It’s a really hard job and I think they should get more credit than they deserve, because it’s a ton of stress on your body,” Biadasz said. “I take good pride in always supporting them and what they do.” Biadasz said he didn’t get to see his dad a lot when he was very young, but he always recognized his father’s sacrifices for him. On occasions when they were together, Biadasz would sometimes joke with his dad about how he could sit in a tractor all day; his dad’s answer was simple: “I love it,” Biadasz recalled. Biadasz credits much of the work ethic that has helped him become a freshman All-American and third team All-Big Ten to the lifestyle and work he experienced
living next to his grandfather’s farm. When he gets tired or is put into a tough situation, he reflects back to the farm and quickly realizes he doesn’t have it so bad. “You have a hard day here, then you think about home — ‘Wow, they’re not even done, they’re not even halfway done,’” Biadasz said. “You have a two-hour practice, you’re busting your butt the whole time and I think I have that mentality that this might suck, but they’re doing it all day.” The transition from alfalfa fields to city streets is certainly ongoing for Biadasz, and there are still many ele-
After his first season with the Badgers, Tyler Biadasz earned both freshman All-American and third team All-Big Ten honors.
Even though life as a studentathlete forces Biadasz to spend less time at home, the farm mentality is still ingrained in his DNA. Biadasz keeps the lessons he’s learned with him every day and uses the skills he learned on the farm in almost all aspects of his life. From his grandpa to his dad, to his uncles to him and his brother, Biadasz hopes to continue his family’s legacy, whether on a tractor or on the football field. “I got some great knowledge and experience out of it,” Biadasz said. “I hope we’ll pass it down and share our stories.”
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ments of Amherst he misses when in Madison. In particular, Biadasz misses the privacy of his hometown. He pointed out the myriad of tightly packed houses and abundance of cars and people on the street. At home, Biadasz joked that he could go outside and scream on the top of his lungs and nobody would hear. In Madison, Biadasz says, it’s never quiet. “Coming from where I’m from, the peace and quiet is not here,” Biadasz said. “I hear people yelling every night and I’m not used to that still. There’s no sitting out on your deck and chilling or anything like that.”